We got engaged in early august during a trip to Gatlinburg and The Great Smokey Mountains and decided to have a 9 month engagement with us getting married in May. That meant getting right to work. We picked our wedding party, what type of suits the men would have, the style of dress for the bridesmaids, and the theme of the wedding in no time flat. What came next was the venue. We knew we needed to have something picked out right away so we emailed a bunch of places to get pricing and set up viewing. That’s when we realized how crazy weddings are. The average wedding costs well over $10k in the US. Our budget on the other hand is well less than $5k. This post will tell you how we got our site, how to save on yours, and how to pick yours.
Looking for a Venue Broke (or Frugal…)
When we first began picking out a venue, we planned to use MadMan’s family farm. Quickly we realized that this might not be feasible and that it might end up begin more expensive than just renting a place. (It’s a working farm, not an event farm) When we decided to look at other options, we thought about what we would want in one. We made a list of requirements and “would be nice” things. We searched the internet for the best and any around.
We sent them- emails saying who we were, when we were looking for, our budget, and our list of things we are looking for. They all emailed back in less than an hour and were all over budget. We looked all over Georgia as we had family all over and were going to have to travel anyway. We were stumped.
We decided to rethink about MadMan’s Family Farm. It suddenly became much more reasonable.
Family Farm… For a Wedding?
MadMan’s family farm is about 40 mins into the country side from the city that all his family live in. The farm itself has TONS of housing, enough to house my small family and all our friends.
It seemed like we might be able to pull everything off. We pulled the plug and made the choice. Now that you know how my story has unfolded, how do you make your choice and what advice can I give?
How to Save on a Venue
Unless you plan on using your church or a family owned land, then you will be paying for a venue. There’s not much that can be done about that. There are a few things that can make it cheaper though.
1. Pick an off Season Date
Picking a date in December will save you tons. The same goes with January or February. October, April, May and the rest of Summer can be a bit pricey. Depending on the location, November can be off season and will save money. By picking an off season date, you can ensure that your venue will give a discount and will be more likely to be available.
2. Pick an off time
If you are looking to save but you just have to get married in the Summer (or you want to double your savings) then you should try a Sunday morning or even a week day. If you have a destination wedding, a weekday makes the most sense, since everyone will be there already. It might take some talking to for people that have to work, but this is a sure way to get an up words of 50% off your normal price.
3. Pick a new place:
Sometimes new places will offer discounts for bookers in the beginning. I know of couples who’ve payed 90% less than they would have just because they were one of the first to use the venue. This requires a bit of flexibility and understanding though. That’s what comes with being the first to try a new place.
4. Use a back yard or farm:
I know I’ve talked about it before, but using a barn or a yard owned by family is a quick way to ensure that you don’t have to pay for the venue. That can save anywhere from $2000 to $20000 or more. Remember though, you still need restrooms, chairs, tables, and shade. If you are using a house, maybe the restrooms inside can be used. Chances are though, you will need to rent tables and chairs since you are not at venue that provides them.
If you want to get married in the mountains, you will pay extra. If you want to get married in a big city, you will pay extra. To save, try finding a venue in the foothills in a medium sized town. Another option is traveling about 40 minutes outside of a big city and looking there. Because the smaller towns have less going for them, you can find that their venue prices are less for the same thing.
Think on those, once you have a wedding date and general location, keep reading for how to find the right venue in your budget.
Note: To save on the overall cost of the wedding, think about trimming you guest list. Each person can add another $5 or another $50 depending on the location you select and the food you order. This can especially help venues if they are charging a per head price.
What is Important to You in a Venue
Now that you know the location and time of your wedding date, you need to know what to look for in a wedding location. Do you want a garden or a barn wedding? A tree? A church or a loft? Do they need to provide chairs or are you willing to rent them? Can you afford the cater that they require?
Write all this down, like ours for example:
- Fire pit for reception
- farm or barn location
- provides chairs and tables
- Can hold 50 to 60 people
- Wheelchair accessible
- Will let us use who ever we choose for cater and stuff
Would be nice:
- Lawn games
- Allows animals in the ceremony
- Has decorations for us to use
Once you have this list, you need to find places to ask. Look on websites like the Knot, Google Maps, Here Comes the Guide, and Facebook. Ask friends where they know of, and search bridal shows if you attend them. They can tell you how much of that they have and what the price would be to use all of it. Once you find a list of places that look like they might qualify, email them your name, number, date of the wedding, time of the wedding, and the list you made. Ask them what their rates are and if they have a package that includes what you are looking for. Ask them how many sites they have to choose from and if there will be other people on site the day you are there. Some will want how many guests are coming, you need to know that too.
Going to Visit
You’ve narrowed it down to about 5 places. Now it’s time to make a trip to see them. When you visit a venue, it is important to know that this is where you will get dressed, use the bathroom, eat, take photos, and (oh yea) get married. It might look amazing, but you first have to ask a few “adult” questions.
How is the water pressure?
Do the toilets look clean?
Will there be enough parking?
Is it easy to find?
Will photos look good here?
Will it be easy (and cheap) to decorate?
Is there anything that wouldn’t work about this place?
Another note: Frugal & Marketing
Now, I am not a proponent of “this is the most important day of your life” and “you need to spend more to ensure the most important day of your life goes right”. I think the most important day of my life was when I decided to stay with him forever. I think that the vow we take on stage will be symbolic and a good reason to celebrate with family, but by no means the most important day of my life. For that reason (or any of your own), if you are frugal like me, don’t get too swept up in “once in a lifetime” marketing campaigns to see how much you are really spending. $5000 might get you a perfect wedding spot for 6 hours but it could also get you a down payment on a car, a nice honeymoon, or more payed off your loans. If $1000 gets you a pretty site, then why spend another $4000 just for one day?
How much did you spend on your venue and what did you get?
Did you spend to much or do you think you did good?
What was your total wedding budget?